Daily Bulletin, 18 Dec
Sustaining resilience: accessibility, accountability and affordability of food supplies
in the NENA region
What are the factors contributing to create food insecurity? How to identify who are the
most vulnerable? These were the questions addressed by participants in the technical
session 11 ‘Ensuring Food Security in Land and Water Scarce Settings’.
Challenges related to land and water scarcity in the NENA region are set in a broader risk
landscape characterized- among others- by uneven distribution of wealth, marginalization
and strong demographic drivers. Resource scarcity is also deeply interconnected with
food insecurity, poverty and political instability.
Within this context, gigantic vulnerabilities exist in the field of food security. No country in
the region has a full control of its own food resources. Availability, access and stability of
food supplies are affected by different factors, such as poverty, conflicts, social unrest,
drought, displacement, poor governance and price fluctuations.
Experts agree that one of the main challenge faced by policy makers is how to identify who
are the most vulnerable. The Arab Organization for Development gave an overview on the
link between food security and poverty trends in NENA countries. For instance, studies
have demonstrated that while poverty is lower in properly irrigated areas, the vast majority
of poverty pockets are rather located in smallholders and landless communities, which are
characterized by marginal agricultural business, higher level of schools drop outs and
illiterates. Poverty tends also to be higher in households headed by women. Weakness in
the access to food supplies are aggravated by the degradation of natural resources and
frequent climate fluctuation.
Over the past decades Arab countries have adopted different mechanisms to reduce
poverty. Several multisectoral studies and targeted investments in rural areas have led to
the construction of infrastructures, drilling of water wells and dams. Good practices from
Egypt on women empowerment were presented. Women in rural areas have been
encouraged to engage in the agricultural sector to improve family income through
dedicated training on small scale agro-processing and modern agricultural technologies.
Participants recommended to sustain community resilience through food security
improvement and poverty reduction in the NENA region. In particular, it was suggested to
set up inclusive mechanisms of governance which can link both bottom-up and top-down
approaches. To ensure sustainability and improve livelihood, governments need to better
balance social and economic aspects in policy planning processes, putting the most
vulnerable at the core of food security strategies. Holistic approaches in decentralization
are also positively welcomed. To scale up interventions, participants suggested to invest
on awareness campaign which can make modern agricultural technologies more socially
acceptable, investing on women as the real engine and model for change.
Irrigated agriculture: one size fits all (RAFI)
In today's technical session on Irrigated Agriculture, there were lively discussions on the
relationship between water management and irrigated technology.
All the participants agreed that with agricultural water being the largest sector of fresh
water use, there needs to be a serious effort in the Near East and North Africa region to
consolidate knowledge on the best practices with regards to irrigation.
During the panel session, experts mentioned the need to adapt the most appropriate
technology for each context. Irrigated agriculture is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and the
context of each situation depends on making the right choice regarding which irrigation
method to implement.
Thus, very much in line with the rest of the Land and Water Days conference, irrigation
technology is another facet of the development of a more sustainable agriculture in the
MENA countries face gradual losses of vegetation cover
Vast areas of agricultural lands in the Arab region are facing severe Land degradation and
Drought hazard, amid the lack of collective action to rescue agricultural lands.
Agriculture experts meeting on the last day of the FAO Water and Land Days concluded
that total agriculture productivity in MENA countries is decreasing by 0.88% on a yearly
basis. Estimates of these Losses reached to 1.17% of rangelands, 1.2% of forests, as well
as high levels of saline waters especially in Algeria and the Mesopotamian region (SyriaIraq).
This is negatively impacting rural communities that are mostly dependent on agriculture for
their living and urban areas which are getting more pressured with migrants from the
The main problem here is ascribed to the lack of needed regulations from the governments
and collective actions from ministries and institutions in charge to combat the problem.
However, small unilateral investment initiatives have taken place in the some parts of
Egypt generating some revenue to smallholder farmers. These are success stories to learn
from, according to some agriculture experts.
Therefore, policy formation need to:
Recognize social and economic values derived from the environment towards more
informed and adapted planning and decision making processes.
Link social and economic outcomes to environmental outcomes
Providing qualitative and quantitative methodologies to determine socio-cultural and
Towards a Regional Collaborative Strategy on sustainable agricultural water
management and food security in the NENA region
The NENA region built more water storages that any other region in the world. By
embracing the spirt of water integrated approaches, a considerable growth in the
agricultural production was registered over the last 25 year. With 25.000 irrigated areas in
the region, a stunning 90% of the irrigation potential of the region has been reached. An
evolution in countries policies facilitated the shift to highly value cropping and raised
agricultural productivity. However, positive results achieved are challenged by many
factors, such as groundwater depletion, climate change, higher temperatures and lower
and less predictable rainfalls.
What does the NENA region need? Christopher Ward, researcher at the Exeter University,
presented the first draft of the regional collaborative strategy on sustainable agricultural
water management and food security. The strategy aims at empowering countries to
further increase their productivity growth. By the application of evidence-based
approaches, policy dialogue can benefit from the rich knowledge base and bring into
government initiatives those changes needed to develop better national poverty strategies.
To be more effective, Mr. Ward affirmed that farmers should be more involved in these
process, as partners rather than beneficiaries. Within their efforts to boost collaborative
interventions, countries can refer to this strategy in the following field of actions:
- Governance and institutions;
- Agricultural water management and food securities;
- Subsidiary, decentralization, participation;
- Acting on the supply-side drivers of scarcity;
- Demand management options and incentive framework.
Potential areas for regional collaboration have also been flashed to participants, including
water management and food security, community organizations for water and wider
natural resource management, groundwater governance, participatory irrigation
modernization and benchmarking.
Call for action: Partnership Pledge
At the end of the Near East and North Africa Land and Water Days, participating agencies,
organizations and institutions submitted a pledge to promote regional partnerships and
collaboration among NENA countries. In light of the severe intensification of water scarcity
and land degradation faced by the region, participants expressed their concern for the
challenges faced by stakeholders in the agricultural sector, including increasing water use
restrictions and further threat of land degradation. Introduced by the representative of the
League of Arab States, Ms. Shahira Wahbi, this call for action acknowledges the necessity
to ‘growing more with less’ by strengthening the resilience of agro-ecosystems towards a
sustainable agricultural intensification.
“There is no more time to waste, we can make a difference in the future only if we work
“[We] Declare our strong interest and willingness to work together, drawing on our
collective knowledge and resources, in an effective, action-oriented and result-based
Regional Partnership, to support the implementation of relevant collaborative strategies, in
the context of the Arab Water Security Strategy and the Arab Strategy for Sustainable
Agricultural Development (2005 – 2025), assisting the Countries of the Region to cope
with water scarcity, manage sustainably their land and water resources and meet their
sustainable development goals.”
But this is just the beginning of a new commitment….